In motor sport you have times where all you can do is take the one positive thing from a weekend and look ahead to the next one. At Oulton Park it was one of those weekends… It was there 19 years ago I became the youngest ever winner of a national motor race in the UK and during those 19 years and hundreds of races since I’ve had a few of those moments when you just have to take a breath and carry on, but I have to say I was not expecting round four of the 2015 BTCC to be one of them.
Last year we were pretty strong and managed three top five finishes including a P2; it was a great weekend. OK, we knew we had played the drying conditions in qualifying well, maximised our race starts and the fact that it is difficult to overtake at Oulton worked in our favour. But when it rained in race 3 we stuck with Turkington, Plato and co so we weren’t exactly slow either.
Off the back of that we expected to at least be reasonably strong and we totally expected to be in the top 10 at least. So it was a bit disheartening to do my first proper run of the weekend and find out how far we were from Jason’s pace. Straight away your weekend changes as you realise that you need to make substantial changes to the car; it’s no longer fine tuning and finding the last tenths.
Still I do love Oulton Park and I have to say that I’m very proud of my work in qualifying. From a personal point of view I knew I had ‘maxed’ the car out. It was a strange feeling getting out of the car – on one hand you are really chuffed with yourself for doing a mega job and on the other you’re 16th.
From qualifying onwards it was always going to be hard. Outside the top ten in the BTCC it’s like anything goes and everyone is desperate. My attitude is that I don’t have the car under me today, let’s stay out of trouble and pick up what points we can. Unfortunately this doesn’t work as it seems people are willing to smash their cars up and risk big accidents for a just a few points. Now don’t get me wrong here, I know I’m no angel and I have made my fair share of errors of judgment and I have completely cocked up. No one is perfect and I can accept errors, but it’s very frustrating when every hit you take is costing you money and they are completely unnecessary.
I’ll give you Josh Cook in race 2 as an example. I spent five laps trying to pass him and did so with no contact at any point in those laps. Two corners later at the hairpin from four to five car lengths back he costs me two doors, a sill and did shell damage to my car. It cost me one place and caused him a flat tyre which ended his race… For what? What was the point?
Typical of my luck though, the moment I do finally lose my temper it’s the only TV time we got all weekend. After multiple contacts with Tom Ingram in race 3, I made a move around the outside to repass him. This resulted in him hitting me on the exit of the corner and I lost my cool. So typically and embarrassingly the coverage just shows me giving him the squeeze. Something I’m not proud of and later apologised for.
Anyway, looking ahead to Croft we will take the positive from Oulton Park with us and that is that in the third race we set the fifth fastest race lap. We had made a geometry change going in to that race and it seemed to transform the car. We know that we are obviously lacking something at the moment and we are very hopeful that this could be it. We have been on the podium at Croft before and last year although it didn’t go well due to my error in FP2 we did have very strong pace.